VIENNA Austria plans to convert and possibly tear down the house Hitler was born in to prevent it becoming a pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis, the Interior Ministry said on Monday.Austria had already ordered the compulsory purchase of the building in Braunau am Inn, a town on the border with Germany where Adolf Hitler was born on April 20, 1889.Now a committee of experts including historians, officials and the head of Austria's main Jewish organisation has recommended that a "thorough architectural rearrangement" be carried out, and Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka intends to follow their suggestion, a spokesman for the minister said.Austrian newspaper Die Presse, which first reported the decision, said the house would be torn down."A new building will be erected," Die Presse quoted Sobotka as saying. "The house will then be used by the community either for charitable or official purposes."
A spokesman for Sobotka said that might involve tearing the building down."A demolition is one possibility," the spokesman said, adding that the aim was for the building to "not be recognisable". It should also not include empty spaces, he said.
Austria, which was annexed by Hitler's Germany in 1938, has confronted its Nazi past far less directly than its larger neighbour, and its official line for decades was that it was that its people were the first victims of Nazism.Though it has long abandoned that stance, critics are likely to see this as a case of an uncomfortable episode of history being swept away without trace.
"We have a functioning culture of memory, for example at the Mauthausen concentration camp," Sobotka told Die Presse when asked if Austria was missing an opportunity to confront its Nazi past. He also cited museums in Vienna and nearby St. Poelten. (Reporting by Francois Murphy; Editing by Alison Williams)
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